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Urgent accommodation found for 140 migrants evicted from Schaerbeek squat

16:06 23/02/2023

A solution has been found for the migrants evicted from a squat in the Brussels neighbourhood of Schaerbeek, where a dead body and multiple cases of tuberculosis were discovered.

Emergency accommodation is being provided for 140 asylum seekers who had been living in the Rue des Palais squat (pictured).

Initially, after the eviction, these migrants took up shelter in a makeshift tent camp on the outskirts of the Petit Château, where asylum applications are processed.

But the Citizens' Platform, Samusocial and the Belgian Red Cross has now opened an emergency centre with 140 places in Anderlecht to house the migrants, whose group expanded after the eviction to include others outside of the squat, some of whom have been living on the streets or in tents for several months.

In the week after the eviction, an estimated 50 or so other migrants joined the 140 displaced asylum seekers, Yan Verhoeven, a volunteer with the ‘Stop the Reception Crisis’ movement, told RTL.

The new shelter in Anderlecht is coordinated by the Citizens' Platform, with Samusocial providing staff to manage the infrastructure and offer logistical support and a team from the Belgian Red Cross providing medical follow-ups.

The Brussels-Capital region is financing the project and contacted the municipality of Anderlecht to identify a suitable site.

“The people helped every day by our mobile teams in front of the Petit Château can no longer bear to live in these conditions, on the edge of the canal, without toilets or sanitary facilities, in the middle of bad weather and traffic, totally dependent on the help of associations and citizens,” said Samusocial’s Magali Pratte. “We had to act quickly.”

Aid organisations such as these have long been sounding the alarm that the refugee situation is spiralling out of control, with the Belgian state unable to provide adequate and dignified living conditions to asylum seekers, whose mental and physical health is in turn rapidly deteriorating.

The opening of the temporary housing structure in Anderlecht “in record time responds to the urgency of the situation and the need to find immediate solutions, beyond the questions of competences and responsibilities of the different levels of power,” said Mehdi Kassou, head of the BxlRefugees citizen platform.

The municipality of Anderlecht indicated that it was “doing its bit in the regional solidarity effort”.

But mayor Fabrice Cumps pointed out that it remains the federal government’s responsibility to take care of asylum seekers.

Cumps also asked that the temporary occupation be shut down after a maximum of one month.

Written by Helen Lyons